Shoppers are embracing their favorite retailers’ efforts to help them live healthier lives."

The healthcare-at-retail movement is gaining speed as some of the nation’s largest chains respond to consumers’ desire for greater control over their health outcomes.

Drug, mass and grocery operators are rapidly expanding their investments in talent, products, services and sites that enable them to offer easy-to-access, personalized, affordable healthcare — and consumers are feeling great about it.

Shoppers are embracing their favorite retailers’ efforts to help them live healthier lives, rewarding them with more frequent store visits, bigger spends and greater brand loyalty.

With nearly half of the U.S. population suffering from one or more chronic health condition, such as diabetes, asthma, heart disease, obesity or cancer, retailers are attracting customers who are disillusioned, dissatisfied or left out or priced out of the current healthcare system.

We’re seeing this in full force at CVS Pharmacy, which is building on great customer response to its three-store HealthHUB pilot in Houston. It plans to open HealthHUB locations in Houston, Atlanta, Philadelphia, southern New Jersey and Tampa this year. By the end of 2021, it will operate 1,500 HealthHUB sites.

Shoppers at HealthHUB sites will find a much broader array of healthcare services and products, including digital and on-demand health tools, access to a team of in-store and remote pharmacists, nurse practitioners, care managers and support staff. More than 20% of each HealthHUB store will be devoted to healthcare services and products, including new durable medical equipment and supplies, new product and service combinations for sleep apnea and diabetes care, nutrition and weight-loss counseling, medical exams children need to attend camp — even yoga classes (yoga mats available for purchase in-store, of course).

A “care concierge” responsible for customer engagement will help shoppers navigate the in-store offerings. During the pilot, customers accepted assistance from the care concierge (beyond a greeting) in more than 95% of recorded interactions, with 60% of them resulting in use of a HealthHub provider or offering.

CVS Pharmacy’s future, however, lies in connecting the physical and digital experience. The chain’s Chief Digital Officer Firdaus Bhathena told attendees at the Digital Health Impact conference the digital experience could be a virtual doctor visit, an artificial-intelligence-powered chatbot or sending health data to a physician through a connected device.

Community Care

While CVS Pharmacy is making large investments today, Walgreens was a pioneer in community-based, specialized, retail healthcare with it HIV Centers of Excellence, now at hundreds of locations. Since 2010, Walgreens has offered HIV-trained pharmacists for consultation in private or by phone, co-pay and patient assistance programs that help cover the cost of medications, free prescription delivery in some areas, at-home HIV tests and counseling.

But perhaps the biggest news in retail healthcare is Walmart’s first standalone Walmart Health clinic in Dallas, Georgia, which opened September 13. The Walmart Health site offers low-cost primary care, including dental, labs, X-rays, hearing tests, immunizations and other injections, vision tests and mental health counseling. The world’s largest retailer, which has pharmacies in nearly all of its locations, already operates three in-store Walmart Health clinics in Texas, South Carolina and Georgia.

Retail healthcare, or what consumers think of as “self-care,” is quickly expanding in the grocery industry, too. Kroger’s 215 The Little Clinics in select Kroger, Fry’s, JayC, Dillons and King Soopers stores are staffed with nurse practitioners and physician assistants who diagnose, treat and educate patient-customers. Shoppers are getting vaccinations and screenings, being treated for minor injuries, having sutures removed, booking sports physicals and receiving health management counseling.

Last year, Kroger amped up its community advocacy and positioning as a healthcare provider with the Wellness Your Way Festival, co-founded with singer/songwriter Jewel. One of the largest wellness and entertainment consumer events in the Cincinnati, the festival expanded to a second market, Denver, this summer.

The three-day festivals featured a food expo, kids’ activities, inspirational talks, and interactive stations showcasing new wellness products and technologies, including Kroger’s OptUP app, which assigns nutrition scoring to products and recommends healthier alternatives.

A few weeks ago, my colleague’s husband received his shingles vaccination during at appointment with his general practitioner. My colleague? She received hers spur of the moment at Stop & Shop during a bread run.

Advantage Solutions

Clark Brown
President, Advantage Consumer Healthcare
Advantage Solutions

Clark Brown has spent his 33-year career in consumer healthcare, including senior leadership roles with Advantage Solutions and GlaxoSmithKline.